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Arts

Selfies forbidden: Replace your smartphone with a pencil and a sketchbook

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam now encourages visitors to draw their works of art - instead of just taking a picture. Other museums all over the world have selfie sticks on their blacklist.

Everybody likes to remember their favorite moments - and many do so with photos. Especially when on vacation, people take pictures of touristic sights, family members or works of art - and the latter isn't always appreciated by museums.

Sketchbooks instead of smartphones

The Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam has started promoting an analogue alternative to taking pictures: drawing. Every Saturday, on "Drawing Saturday," the museum invites, or rather, restricts its guests to sketching the exhibits instead of photographing them. According to the museum's website, the campaign serves a reasonable purpose: visitors see more when they draw.

Smartphones and media often make a visit to the museum a superficial and passive experience. Visitors learn to appreciate art a lot more and examine the works of art more thoroughly when they draw. A pencil and sketchbook are provided for free - right after you've paid an entrance fee of 17.50 euros ($18.50).

School of observation

A tour through the exhibition offers special drawing assignments, each of which requires a certain drawing technique. For instance, sketch a sculpture and learn how to properly copy shadows. Or draw a whole room and practice angles and the vanishing point. For those of you who are convinced you can't draw at all, no worries. Right next to the Rijksmuseum, there's the museum's own art school where you can learn. It has been founded by the museum's architect, Pierre Cuypers, in 1885.

Instead of uploading pictures of the museum's exhibits, the sketches can then directly be posted on Instagram or Twitter. The Rijksmuseum uses the hashtags #startdrawing or, for Dutch-speakers, #hierteekenen. Photography is still permitted during the week though, so the art of the "selfie with painting" will not disappear from the museum completely.

Screenshot Instagram Rijksmuseum #startdrawing

The Rijksmuseum is happy to post its guests' drawings online

The wand of narcissism

"Time Magazine" has declared the selfie stick to be one of the 25 best inventions of 2014. Selfies have become wildly popular in social networks, so logically the product making selfie-snapping easier overtook the market. The selfie stick, occasionally referred to as "the wand of narcissism," is now part of the modern tourist's inventory. In the 21st century, you can't just take a picture of yourself - you need to take a picture of yourself with a popular attraction in the background. And of course, you will have to post your masterpiece in every social network known to man.

But this "best" invention bothers most museums and other cultural institutions. The artificial arm extension has recently been banned from Disney theme parks. Spokeswoman Kim Prunty told the newspaper "Orlando Sentinel" that selfie sticks have become a "growing concern for both our guests and cast."

Vatican Museum, Copyright: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

Thousands of tourists barge through Raphael's Room at the Vatican Museum

Safety comes first

These safety concerns justify prohibitions in museums worldwide. The Sistine Chapel in the Vatican, the Smithsonian in Washington D.C, the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA) in New York City or the Palace of Versailles: all these museums do not want to see selfie sticks in their rooms anymore.

The concern that valuable exhibits could be damaged or visitors and staff be injured is too high. "It's one thing to take a picture at arm's length, but when it is three times arm's length, you are invading someone else's personal space," said Sree Sreenivasan, chief digital officer of the MoMA, in an interview with the "New York Times." A visit to a museum is a private undertaking, after all.

If you've been dreaming of taking a selfie with Michelangelo's "The Creation of Adam," you can forget it. Taking pictures with a flash is prohibited in Vatican museums. You will be asked to leave your selfie stick in a locker - along with your backpack. Here too, these rules aim to protect exhibits and visitors.

The same goes for big sports events, such as the Grand Slam tennis tournament in Wimbledon. Selfie sticks are prohibited, along with other dangerous objects, including knifes, pepper spray or illegal substances, said news agency dpa. "In conjunction with other large sporting events and cultural attractions, selfie sticks will not be allowed at Wimbledon," the organizers announced.

Tourist with Selfie-Stick in Paris, Copyright: (AP Photo/Remy de la Mauviniere, File)

Tourists are still allowed to use a selfie stick at the Louvre

If you want to take a picture with a selfie-stick in front of a work of art, try Paris or London. Most of the museums in the British capital allow the use of selfie sticks in their halls, as does the Parisian Louvre. A selfie with Mona Lisa? Why not!

Whenever the sticks are prohibited, just leave them in your backpack. The human arm is long enough. Better still, try out the analogue alternative recommended by the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam: a pencil and a sketchbook.

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